Relating the Movement of a Rapidly Migrating Ungulate to Spatiotemporal Patterns of Forage Quality
Departmental Paper Identifier
Migratory ungulates exhibit recurring movements, often along traditional routes between seasonal ranges each spring and autumn, which allow them to track resources as they become available on the landscape. We examined the relationship between spring migration of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and forage quality, as indexed by spatiotemporal patterns of fecal nitrogen and remotely sensed greenness of vegetation (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index; NDVI) in spring 2010 in the Piceance Basin of northwestern Colorado, USA. NDVI increased throughout spring, and was affected primarily by snow depth when snow was present, and temperature when snow was absent. Fecal nitrogen was lowest when deer were on winter range before migration, increased rapidly to an asymptote during migration, and remained relatively high when deer reached summer range. Values of fecal nitrogen corresponded with increasing NDVI during migration. Spring migration for mule deer provided a way for these large mammals to increase access to a high-quality diet, which was evident in patterns of NDVI and fecal nitrogen. Moreover, these deer “jumped” rather than “surfed” the green wave by arriving on summer range well before peak productivity of forage occurred. This rapid migration may aid in securing resources and seclusion from others on summer range in preparation for parturition, and to minimize detrimental factors such as predation, and malnutrition during migration.
DOI of Published Version
Lendrum, Patrick E.; Anderson, Charles R.; Monteith, Kevin L.; Jenks, Jonathan A.; and Bowyer, R. Terry, "Relating the Movement of a Rapidly Migrating Ungulate to Spatiotemporal Patterns of Forage Quality" (2014). Natural Resource Management Faculty Publications. 90.